Monday, May 20, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness Or: My Final Farewell to Eileen.

Dear Eileen,

One month before your passing, our phone conversations varied among many topics, but they would, somehow, revert back to the science-fiction/fantasy genre. Granted, even before then, when we talked chatted on Facebook, the subject would return to the genre that made you a fangirl of said genre, from The Boy Who Lived and the Seven Realms, to Star Wars and Star Trek. Hell, I can't even remember how many times you you quoted the line where C-3PO tells Han that the chances of navigating through an asteroid field successfully was approximately three thousand seven hundred and twenty to one! (Damnit, now you've got me saying it!) Just before you passed, you continued to geek out over how you wanted to watch Star Trek Into Darkness, the big follow up to director J.J. Abrams' prequel of the original Trek movies. The other movies I was jazzed about seeing: Iron Man 3The Hangover Part IIIMan of Steel - they didn't hold a candle to how badly you wanted to see the continuing adventures of Captain James T. Kirk and his crew, traveling the realms of space at warp speed.

Unfortunately, you weren't able to get that opportunity.

I wish you had, if nothing else, for the opinions and analysis that we would have, because there's much doing on in this latest installment. After Kirk (played once again by Chris Pine) disobeys Starfleet's directive of extinguishing a volcano before it can destroy an indigenous race without being spotted by said indigenous people, now Rear Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), along with the rest of the board in the Federation, strip Kirk of his status of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and his role as captain. The situation changes dramatically as the Federation is attacked by one of they own, the mysterious and deadly agent John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch of the BBC's Sherlock) through a series of terrorist attacks, from a bombing of the Starfleet library in London, to the attack at headquarters in San Francisco, killing several captains and officers in the process. Kirk is re-instated as Captain of the Enterprise  and he is given a green-light to find, capture and bring back Harrison to justice by Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller).

That's pretty much the plot to Abram's second outing in the Trek universe, and I'm not going to comment further because doing so would invoke spoilers, which I won't reveal here.What I can say to you, Eileen, is that Into Darkness is everything you'd expect from Abrams: an engaging story, great characters, and expertly staged action set pieces that dazzling and thrilling to watch. The entire cast returns for the second installment, including First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto), Communications Officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Senior Medical Officer Leonard "Bones" McCoy (Karl Urban), Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg), Lieutenant Commander Sulu (John Cho) and Ensign Checkov (Anton Yelchin)., and each character gets their chance to shine, though Yelchin's Checkov is mostly reduced to running around the engineer deck whenever the ship is thrown into chaos. In fact, Pegg, Saldana and Cho are give much more to do in this installment than last time, as all three become integral parts to middle section of the film.

Again, i'm being vague out of fear of spoilers, but i'd be doing a disservice if I didn't bring up the biggest flaw of Into Darkness, namely the fact that Abrams takes a crucial plot twist from the Star Trek movies of yesteryear and slaps it in this film. Granted, it did work, as it demonstrated that Kirk finally understands humility and that there are no-win scenarios in being the commander of a ship, but then, kind of like how Bill Condon pulled the rug right out under Twi-hards everywhere towards the end of Breaking Dawn: Part II, Abrams more or less does the same thing here, and for you, being the sci-fi/Trek fan that you were, it may leave a sour taste in the mouth.

Still, besides Abrams almost hitting the copy and paste keys with Into Darkness, there's still so much to like in this film. You would have enjoyed all the banter between the crew of the Enterprise, especially between Spock and Kirk. They may have settled their differences between each other in the first film, but their philosophies - Kirk leaping without looking, Spock searching for a logical solution before he leaps - still put the two men at odds with one another. And what good would a team of protagonists would do without a villain, and Cumberbatch has it in spades as Harrison. He's a cunning, ticking timebomb, always putting himself two steps ahead of Kirk and his crew and the Federation, who want nothing more than him in a body bag. You should see the interaction between him and Pine's Kirk on board the Enterprise as he says, "I am better than everything." He's a brilliant actor, hiding the madness of his character's motives. Pine is also solid as Kirk, as he begins to learn this his arrogant, rule-breaking ways has consequences, as he must learn to respect his power as Captain. And I don't know what else I can say about Quninto as Spock, except that he was born to play this iconic character. Not only is he the spittin' image of Leonard Nimoy's character, he understands he is a man in war with himself - the cold logic of his Vulcan side, vs the emotional and feeling Human side.

I believe you would have enjoyed this movie, Eileen, and I wish to the Gods, both the Old and the New, that you could have seen it and we could talk about it. But maybe you already have, and that the Gods were able to get a copy of the movie and you were able to see it from the opening notes to Michael Giaccino's wonderful score, to the end credits which play the 60's Star Trek television theme. Maybe one day we'll get that chance to discuss and compare notes, but until then, to quote Spock himself: "I have been, and shall always be, your friend. Live long, and prosper."

*** stars out of ****

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review Jonathan :)

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